Sens. Cruz, Cornyn, Klobuchar Push SBA to Speed Up Relief to Struggling Live Event Venues
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and their Senate colleagues today sent a letter to Small Business Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman urging her to disburse Shuttered Venue Operator Grant funding to struggling live entertainment venues as soon as possible. The legislation that created this program, the Save Our Stages Act, was signed into law more than six months ago, and event venues are going out of business while waiting for these grants.
In the letter, the senators wrote:
"The Save Our Stages Act, now the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, was created to prevent widespread closures of venues that have been devastated by the loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As supporters of the SVOG program, we urge you to take immediate action to ensure that the relief reaches eligible applicants without further delay."
"It has been nearly six months since Congress passed the Save our Stages Act, nearly two months since the second launch of the program, and 51 days since the Small Business Administration (SBA) began receiving applications."
"Bureaucratic process cannot stand in the way of getting these desperately needed funds out the door."
They were joined on the letter by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Angus King (I-Maine), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.).
Read the full text of the letter here and below.
June 15, 2021
The Honorable Isabella Casillas Guzman
Administrator, Small Business Administration
409 3rd Street, SW
Washington, DC 20416
Dear Administrator Guzman:
The Save Our Stages Act, now the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, was created to prevent widespread closures of venues that have been devastated by closures and the loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As supporters of the SVOG program, we urge you to take immediate action to ensure that the relief reaches eligible applicants without further delay.
It has been nearly six months since Congress passed the Save our Stages Act, nearly two months since the second launch of the program, and  days since the Small Business Administration began receiving applications. SBA had until June 9 to process about 5,000 applications from business owners operating on less than 10% of their pre-COVID revenue. Unfortunately, by the last count provided to Congress, fewer than 100 award notices have gone out and virtually no funds have been sent to venues in need. That means less than 2 percent of applicants in the program's first priority period have been told if they will even receive a grant, let alone seen any of the funding, and that is after several other previous implementation delays that these venues have had to endure.
The SVOG program is unique with necessary restrictions built in to ensure taxpayer funding goes only to eligible applicants in need. Under the terms of the law, the SVOG program requires the award of funding to eligible applicants who meet the simple requirements of the program. In this context, the insistence on strict compliance with competitive grant rules - in contrast to the administration of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund - has created unnecessary delays in funding. Similarly, restrictions that SBA has placed on communication with grant applicants are unnecessary and prevented the agency from providing administrative support to individual applicants that could have streamlined the application review process. While we share the agency's stated objective of preventing fraud and ensuring compliance with federal grant making requirements, we are now six months out from the creation of this program and the risk of further delays outweigh any limited risk of fraud presented by this simple program.
Further delays are unacceptable and would have irreversible consequences for these industries. In the last two weeks, countless venue owners have reached out to us to express frustration with continued delays in the processing of submitted applications for SVOG relief. Many of these venues are on the financial brink, with creditors and landlords calling for long overdue payments. Continued delays are putting venues out of business each day. For many program applicants, funding delayed will be funding denied.
In an effort to keep our constituents informed and ensure our small businesses receive the support they were promised, we respectfully request you provide us with the following information:
1. The number SVOG awards that have been approved
2. The number of SVOG grants that have been disbursed to recipients
3. The amount of SVOG funding that has been disbursed
4. The number of applications with holds
5. The number of first-priority applicants that have received an award notice
6. What SBA is doing to update small business owners on the status of their applications
7. What SBA is doing to ensure applicants are not incorrectly associated with similar-named individuals and entities on the List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE)
8. What SBA is doing to correct false DNP designation notices sent to thousands of applicants?
9. SBA's justification for breaking grant awards, regardless of side, into multiple disbursements
10. SBA's timeline for subsequent disbursements and what do grantees need to do to receive them?